King David mother fights on for school place

Community leaders have expressed sadness and outrage over the first case of a Jewish child being barred from a Jewish school under new admissions rules, following the Supreme Court ruling on JFS last summer.

Last week the JC exclusively reported that, after losing an appeal, 10-year-old Kayleigh Chapple was refused a place at Liverpool's King David High School because she could not pass the religious practice test set out in the school's new admissions policy. Her place went to a non-Jewish pupil.

Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies, said the court ruling on JFS meant there was "always the danger that the pool of Jewish children eligible to attend Jewish schools could be adversely affected, and so it has proved in this case."

Rabbi Jonathan Guttentag, convener of the National Association of Orthodox Schools, said a practice-based admissions system was "ridiculous".He said: "How can it make any sense that a Jew is denied a place at a Jewish school in favour of a non-Jew?"

But Liberal Judaism chief executive Rabbi Danny Rich, while acknowledging "sadness that any child should be deprived of a Jewish education", argued that the case of Kayleigh Chapple "only reinforces our view that Jewish schools need to find compassionate and inclusive - and, of course, legal - criteria for admission".

United Synagogue president Simon Hochhauser said that use of practice tests as the sole determinant of admissions were "going to lead to unfairness.The use of religious practice criteria will inevitably lead to Jewish children being denied places in favour of non-Jewish children in Jewish schools, which is bizarre."

A spokesman for Liverpool City Council was unable to confirm whether there was anyone of religious faith or expertise on the independent appeals panel which turned down the Chapple application.

He said: "There have been no concerns raised about the level of detail that was presented to the panel. We cannot comment on individual cases."

This week Kayleigh's mother, Dawn Chapple, said she was consulting a legal team on the best course of action.

She declared: "I'll remortgage my house. I've got £180,000 of equity in my house. That's all I can say. I'm ready to fight."

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Last updated: 4:02pm, June 17 2010